Spanish Professor Publishes in Anthology on the New Mexico Homeland

August 11, 2020

Norma A. Valenzuela

Las Vegas, N.M. – New Mexico Highlands University Spanish professor Norma A. Valenzuela published a chapter in an anthology, Querencia: Reflections on the New Mexico Homeland.

The University of New Mexico Press published the book in May 2020.

“The Querencia anthology represents the diverse issues Hispano and Indigenous communities within the state have faced,” Valenzuela said. “It is important because it incorporates the voices of generations of Nuevo Mexicanos – New Mexicans.”

Before his death in June 2020, author Rudolfo Anaya, who is a founder of the Chicano literature movement, authored the forward for the Querencia book, writing, “Querencia is love of home, love of place. The importance of querencia for each contributor of the book is apparent in their work and ongoing studies, which have roots in the culture, history, literature and popular media of New Mexico. Be inspired and enlightened by these essays.”

Valenzuela said the overall goal of the anthology is to showcase the work that New Mexican activists and scholars are doing in their respective fields.

“My chapter in the book is very important to me because my life experiences in New Mexico anchor my querencia – love of place – in this unique state. I am a first-generation MeXicana, a combination of Mexican and Xicana, to honor my Indigenous roots. I’m from a working-class family, whose parents don’t speak English. I came to New Mexico as a child,” Valenzuela said.

Valenzuela’s chapter in Querencia is titled, “Mestiza Consciousness al la MeXicana in Última and Agueda Martínez: Bridging and Legitimizing Querencia in the Borderlands.”

Valenzuela said her chapter in the book explores querencia through the intersection of race, gender class, and nation in the life of two New Mexican protagonists, Última, a fictional character, and Agueda Martínez, a legendary Chimayo weaver.

“I explore their lived experiences to bridge and legitimize my own position with the borderlands, specifically connecting rural and urban New Mexico and northern Mexico. I juxtapose my own history as central to the lens I use to understand and make sense of living in Albuquerque, New Mexico,” Valenzuela said.

Valenzuela said her sense of living is informed by her own experiences in northern Mexico, where she was born and lived until she was eight, when her parents immigrated to Albuquerque in search of educational opportunities for their three oldest daughters.

“In northern Mexico, my unschooled abuelita, grandmother, a curandera or traditional healer, educated me through dichos, storytelling, and love of the land. Her teachings anchored my querencia in Albuquerque,” Valenzuela said.

Valenzuela joined the Highlands University faculty in 2017 and moved to Las Vegas. She earned her doctorate in Spanish, with an emphasis in Chicano/Latino and Latin American cultural studies, from Arizona State University. Valenzuela completed postdoctoral studies at the University of New Mexico.

At Highlands, Valenzuela teaches courses from beginning to advanced Spanish as well as classes such as Civilization of the U.S. Southwest.

“What I try to instill in students is to be proud of the Spanish language and culture. With my northern New Mexico heritage Spanish speakers, I stress that their language is as valid and important as the Spanish spoken in Spain, Latin America and Mexico,” Valenzuela said.

Valenzuela’s research is published in scholarly journals such as the Journal of Chicana/Latina Studies. She also published a 2012 book about the documentaries of Lourdes Portillo, an award-winning Mexican American filmmaker.